In the first few months of life, a baby’s name is just about the most distinguishing attribute they have. And until those squishy little newborn faces start to really take shape, a big part of a baby’s identity is wrapped up in his or her moniker.
Most popular baby names in the United States have some sort of Latin roots, but we talked with baby naming experts Pamela Redmond of Nameberry and Sherri Suzanne, founder of My Name for Life, about the up-and-coming Spanish baby names on her radar this year. If you’re looking for a name that’s a little more exotic than Emma or Noah, these beautiful baby names roll right off the tongue.
“Parents in the 21st century have rediscovered Juliet and Juliette, and so it was only natural that the Spanish version Julieta would arrive next.” Suzanne said. The rising popularity could be due in part to American-born Mexican singer Julieta Venegas, or it could be a nod to the most recent movie of Spain’s acclaimed filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar called Julieta.
In Spanish, this name is hoo-lee-EH-tah, but some parents anglicize it to joo-lee-EH-tah, Suzanne said. Whether it’s a soft or a hard J, this one has us swooning from our Shakespearean balconies.
This shortened modern twist on “Alejandra,” the Spanish version of Alexandra, found its footing in 1995 after the Mexican telenovela Alondra, Suzanne said. Alondra in Spanish translates to “lark,” which makes it the perfectly earthy springtime name for girls.
“It peaked in the U.S. around 2005 at number 120, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration, but may be on the rise again,” Suzanne said.
Matthew McConaughey’s Brazilian model wife Camila Alves helped popularize the Spanish version of Camilla, bringing it to number 43 on the most-popular list, Redmond said.
Pronounced ka-MEE-lah, this was the name of a swift-footed huntress in Roman mythology who was said to have had the speed and agility to run over a field without bending a single blade of grass.
Although Isabella has dropped from its number one spot, it is still the 5th most popular baby girl name in the United States, Redmond said. And while American pop culture buffs might associate the name with a fictional sparkly vampire-loving teen girl, history buffs know that the Spanish roots of the name date back to Queen Isabella of Spain.
If you don’t want to have a Bella who befriends creatures of the night, consider giving a nickname nod to strong female characters like Izzie Stevens of Grey’s Anatomy.
Ximena is an exotic name with a capital X. Pronounced he-MEN-uh, Redmond said this unusual Spanish name might only be number 125 in the United States, but it is the second most popular female name in Mexico.
Ximena was originally spelled Jimena, but the J was abandoned for the X after Ximena, the wife of El Cid, ruled Valencia in the 11th century. Ximena is the female Spanish equivalent of the masculine Hebrew name Simon, which means “listener.”
With the emphasis on the LEN, this traditional Spanish name has been on the rise since 2000, and it’s the name of pro Spanish golfer, Belén Mozo, Suzanne said. It’s also the name actor Ricardo Chavira, of Desperate Housewives and Scandal, chose for his daughter.
However this name has very pious roots. Belén is the Spanish name for the city of Bethlehem, birthplace of Jesus Christ himself.
Another heavenly choice is Aitana. Named for a beautiful place in Spain, Aitana is the highest mountain summit in the Province of Alicante, Suzanne said. It gained popularity probably because of Spanish actress Aitana Sanchez-Gijón and Aitana Derbez, daughter of Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez.
Baby girls aren’t the only ones with options. Baby boys have plenty of Spanish options as well. Let’s start with Máximo, since it means “the greatest.”
Máximo is the Spanish form of the Ancient Roman name Maximus, Suzanne said. And while Maximus has been gaining popularity since 2000, Máximo has been hovering inside the Top 1000 for about the same amount of time, and is making another surge. Max is such a strong, powerful nickname, and tennis fans will love knowing that their baby is aligned with Máximo Gonzalez from Argentina.
Leandro is a Spanish form of the name Leander, a character in Greek mythology. Legend has it that Leander was hopelessly in love with Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite. He swam nightly to meet with his love, and although the two lovers met a tragic Shakespearean end when Leander was thrown into the sea, the name Leandro still calls up feelings of strength, dedication and love.
The name actually translates to “lion-man” and it lends itself to the nickname Leo, Suzanne said. It’s a strong but beautifully romantic Spanish option for August babies.
Speaking of romance, Valentín is another Spanish name now trending due to celebrities, like dance pro Valentin “Val” Chmerkovsky from TVs Dancing with the Stars. Although Val the dancer is Ukrainian-America, the name Valentín is the Spanish form of the Ancient Roman name Valentinus, Suzanne said.
“Valentine” names have typically been reserved for girls in English-speaking countries. But the male versions Valentín and Valentino are popular for boys in Europe. “Here in America, Valentino is being used steadily but quietly, and Valentín, which is hovering just inside the Top 1000, is on the rise again,” Suzanne said. Actress Ali Landry and her husband, director Alejandro Monteverde, loved the name enough to chose it for their own little boy, Valentín.
Setting the tone
A baby’s name doesn’t guarantee personality traits or personal accomplishments, but it does help set the tone for the rest of his or her life. Choosing a name with meaning and positive associations is important to prevent little Poindexter from having hard feelings down the line that you didn’t go with something a little more hip.
Although these names might seem exotic in the United States, Spanish is the most widely spoken of all the Romance languages throughout the world, so consider these gorgeous names when dubbing your little bundle of joy.